An April 2001 trip
to Edinburgh by Andria808
Quote: While I was going to school in Oxford, some friends and I hopped a train up to Edinburgh for Easter break.
We dropped our luggage in our rooms and went to have a beer in the lounge. The bar in the lounge is on the honor system and fully stocked with everything you could want, as well as a description of all of the scotches they have. You take whatever you want from the bar and write down what you took and your room number. The lounge itself is cozy and intimate, with comfy chairs and couches. Once you settle in, it’s pretty hard to get back up again.
We had two double rooms for six girls, which could have been a problem, but it was fine. The rooms are a little small but standard European size: two double beds; a desk stocked with tea, biscuits, and hot chocolate; an armoire; a vanity; and a full bathroom. What made everything work was the fact that there are bathrooms in the hall, too. The bathrooms in the hall are half-baths, but it’s perfect for the early morning rotation when someone’s in the shower and you’re desperate for a pee. The shower was a good size and never ran out of hot water
The breakfast was amazing. We walked into a full buffet with some of the most beautiful fruit I’ve ever seen. Fruit, cereal, rolls, and these delicious smoked cheese logs were at the buffet, and then there was a full menu of hot food that you can order as much of as you want. We didn’t ever realize we could order off the menu because the buffet was so impressive, but naturally, we made room for an omelet and toast.
This B&B was wonderful. I would not change anything about our experience there, and I recommend it to anyone. It’s cheaper that hotels in the city center because it is a bit of a walk (about 20 minutes), but it’s a great walk and goes quickly. If you don’t feel like walking, cabs come by all the time, and the front desk will call one for you if you want. This is my first and only (to date) B&B experience, but it was impeccable. The whole vibe was very much "staying a Grandma’s house without the guilt." It looked like Grandma’s house, and the staff seemed to genuinely want to take care of you. That was what cemented it all for me, the sheer niceness of everyone who worked there. It wasn’t the fake, indifferent nice that comes with the service industry and it wasn’t polite British niceness, this was the niceness of people who like people and taking care of them.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 27, 2005
Allison House Hotel
17 Mayfield Gardens
Attraction | "Scotch Whiskey Heritage Tour"
The vials represent the three stages of scotch whiskey development. After a brief smell test and rundown about the differences between single-malt, grain, and blended whiskeys, the tour moves into the next room.
In the next room, a "ghost" tells you more about the history of scotch whiskey. This part of the tour was kind of hokey and pretty easy to tune out. I really have no idea what the ghost talked about. I’m sure it was interesting, but it’s a lot of information after you’ve just had a shot of scotch, and unlike the previous room, there’s no interaction, just sitting.
The third leg of the tour is the most fun. You climb into a giant keg barrel-shaped cart and take a tour through the history of Scotland and scotch whiskey. Robots act out important moments in scotch whiskey making, from the beginning to present. Just like the ghost in the previous room, it’s pretty hokey, but who cares really. This is not a tour to be taken completely seriously. You do learn a lot (especially if you pay attention), but it’s also silly and fun. At the end of the ride, you’re presented with a certificate that says you are an expert in scotch whiskey. The only problem with the certificate is that it’s not signed by anyone, and I think if you sign it yourself it’s less authentic. It’s still pretty cool.
From there you go to the tasting room. We got a good lunch and a glass of beer for a reasonable amount of money. The experience was a bit marred by a father who seemed bent on getting his son, who appeared to be about 15, wasted on the scotch sampler. It was a bit like a fraternity hazing, and I don’t know how they snuck the kid past his mother. That seemed to be the dad’s secondary concern; the first was "putting some hair on your chest." I must say, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that in real life. That kind of thing happens, I guess.
Naturally, after the tour is over, you wind up in a gift shop. You would think buying scotch whiskey at the source is cheaper than other places—this is wrong. The prices are just silly high, and you can do better almost anywhere in town.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 27, 2005
Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre
Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 2NE
+44 131 220 0441
Some of the pubs are pretty far apart, but the walk is an excellent way to stay sober(er), and Edinburgh is a wonderful city to walk in. This works like any pub crawl: you go to the first pub and tell the bartender that you want to do the Downtown Edinburgh Ale Trail. We stumbled upon this completely by accident, I don’t remember if there are signs or if the bartender brought it up, but they won’t look at you like you’re crazy when you ask. When you tell the bartender, he or she will give you a map and a stamp for the pint you purchase.
At each pub on the map, you go in, order a pint or half-pint, and collect another stamp. You can go to the pubs in any order you want, but you have to finish up at Bar Oz. Once you order your pint there, they’ll take your map and give you a T-shirt.
The pubs are Ye Olde Golf Tavern, Bennets, Bar Oz, Livingroom, Finnigan’s Wake, Royal Mile Tavern, Biddy Mulligan’s, Maggie Dickson’s, Beehive Inn, and The Old Fire Station.
This is so much fun and an excellent way to mingle with the locals. If you’re not a big drinker, stick to half-pints. We actually finished the crawl over the course of 2days because day one was interrupted by a rugby team from Coventry, England, that we met at the Beehive Inn. They took us to a club one the other side of the street called Espionage.
Side note: Even if you’re not a big clubber (and I’m not), Espionage is worth checking out. The whole place has a spy/James Bond theme. It has three levels: one is a low-key pub level, and another is a frenetic dance club down in the basement. I don’t know what the third is because we only went to two of them. The pub is very chill and dimly lit, with a lot of dark wood. The club was packed tight with bodies and was designed to look like a cave. It was cool but so full and the ceiling is quite low, so I felt uncomfortable and claustrophobic. It was a Friday night over Easter break weekend, so that may be part of the reason it was so packed. Even though it was really full, we only had to wait to get in about 20 minutes.
Downtown Ale Trail
Various pubs around town
We stumbled into Stirling Castle very early Easter Sunday and immediately went to the Costa Coffee shop situated the lower level. That's right, in the middle of an imposing, and breathtaking castle there is a chain coffee shop. Regardless, I was grateful for the coffee. Stirling is a much more comfortable castle. That may not make too much sense, but I found it to be a lot less overwhelming than others. Edinburgh Castle is just daunting, there's no way to see it all, but Stirling is doable.
We wandered throughout the castle and saw most of it in about an hour. The views are amazing: just green and lush and wonderful. It was still early, so there was a nice mist hanging over everything, and it felt quiet and peaceful. From one side of the castle, we could see the William Wallace Monument, stark and imposing on its hilltop.
Apparently, in the kitchen, there are some freaky mannequins that the British seem to like to put in castles, but we decided not to see them. The rooms that are in every castle--great hall, chapel, etc.--were pretty standard. They're impressive, but a great hall is always impressive and rarely unique. After puttering around the castle for a while, we went out to what I guess is the backyard. There are stone paths and the softest grass I've ever rolled around in. I rolled in the grass, and it was great.
The whole experience there just made me feel impish. Maybe we were just overly tired, but it was something else too. Some attractions just wear a person out; you feel validated for seeing them but exhausted. Stirling Castle invigorated me. I felt privileged that I was allowed to see something so beautiful, and it gave the rest of my day a glow.
Fargo, North Dakota